Urban Meyer
Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports

The Urban Meyer era is off to a rocky start in Jacksonville, and he has no one to blame but himself.

Meyer made his first major mistake as Jaguars head coach when he hired former University of Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle to be the Jaguars’ director of sports performance after Doyle left Iowa following allegations of racism and abusive behavior from dozens of former Hawkeye football players. Meyer made matters worse when he told reporters that Doyle had been “vetted thoroughly” before being brought to Jacksonville and that he “felt great about the hire”. 

Doyle resigned from the Jaguars a little over 24 hours after his hiring was announced.

This debacle marks a troubling start to Meyer’s time in Jacksonville and it should serve as a blueprint for what not to do as a former college head coach making the transition to the NFL. While Meyer assured reporters at his introductory press conference that he knew how leading an NFL franchise would be different from his time as the omnipresent overlord of Ohio State football, hiring Doyle shows that there is a disconnect between his rhetoric and his mindset.

Hiring the coach who became the face of the mistreatment of Black college football players to lead the first professional sports team to organize a protest against police brutality after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers is confounding and disrespectful. 

Current Jaguars cornerback Greg Mabin is one of the many Black former Iowa Football players to praise former teammates for calling out Doyle’s abusive behavior. In addition to allegations of racist comments and bullying, Doyle was reprimanded by Iowa for implementing a dangerous lifting regimen which sent 13 Hawkeye players to the hospital in 2013. 

This situation is made more complex by Meyer’s pattern of overlooking bad behavior by those beneath him. Meyer left Ohio State a year after former Buckeye wide receiver coach Zach Smith was fired after his ex-wife, Courtney Smith, was granted an order of protection against him before coming forward alleging that Smith had a history of violently abusing her. 

An investigation following Smith’s firing from Ohio State showed that Meyer knew of an incident in which Smith was arrested on suspicion of aggravated battery against his wife in 2009 while Smith was on Meyer’s staff at Florida. The investigation showed that Meyer did not tell Ohio State officials about the incident before hiring Smith in 2012. 

Courtney Smith also told reporters in 2018 that she had told Meyer’s wife, Shelley, that Smith had assaulted her in 2015, but Smith remained on the Buckeyes’ coaching staff. 

Meyer has a long way to go to earn the trust of his players in Jacksonville, and he has a long way to go to prove that he’s capable of prioritizing doing what’s right over protecting the coaches he’s built relationships with. Meyer defended his decision to hire Doyle citing the 20 year-long professional relationship the two have and Meyer said that the fact that Smith’s grandfather, Earl Bruce, was Meyer’s mentor colored the way he viewed the troubled coach.

Meyer will be a failure in Jacksonville if it’s not clear to his players that their safety is more important to him than his friendships.